The book of Genesis is one for beginnings. It isn’t so much about it being the start of creation but more about it being the start of documented creation. As such, most of the things captured therein experience some sort of iteration across the other sixty-five canonised books – scholars refer to it as the Law of First Mention. One of the earliest figures we are being introduced to is Abraham, a very consequential person in the annals of human history. So consequential is Abraham that at least three of the world’s leading monotheistic faiths today ascribe or acknowledge him as their patriarch. There are touchpoints in Abraham’s story that are very relatable and perhaps most fitting to be used as a canvas for commemorating this year’s International Men’s Day.
Leap of Faith
The first thing God tells him to do is leave the familiar. In Abraham’s case, this involved physically changing geographical locations. But that’s not always the case, environments aren’t just places; environments are also people. Many of us have the potential for greatness but may not attain it because we’re unwilling to let go of who, where and what we have mastered. It’s the irony of growth; getting to the next level generally means you become bigger and better but it also means you’re more vulnerable because you have to start all over. It’s hard to tell a teacher to become a student again, an expert to become a rookie again and a leader to become a follower again. Success is its own biggest enemy because if you’re not careful, it keeps you in a comfort zone. The one time God gave Abraham updates was after he had separated from Lot, his nephew. It’s worth to also note that Abraham’s japa was not on a whim but based on spiritual intelligence.
Men need to understand that the MO of yesterday won’t cut it today. We have to leave hard work and move towards smart work. Leave misogyny and embrace emotional intelligence. Leave venerating criminal behaviour and embrace speaking the truth. Leave archaic traditions and accept superior submissions. If we don’t leave our old family, we cannot move to a new family. Until we leave our individual and collective irresponsibility, we cannot build a new nation. God didn’t just tell Abraham to leave his ancestral land or his nephew, God also told Abraham to leave his small thinking behind. That’s why Abraham was told to leave his tent and look at the stars in the sky to expand his worldview. One of the first things God fixes in a man is his perspective because any man without a vision is just matter – having weight and occupying space.
There are many annotated arguments on why Abraham was chosen and most lean toward the sovereignty of God. One verse stands out for me as possible causality, God gives an explicit reason why Abraham got the nod: “Shall I keep back from Abraham what I’m about to do? Abraham is going to become a large and strong nation; all the nations of the world are going to find themselves blessed through him. Yes, I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe God’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly, so that God can complete in Abraham what he promised him.”
God doesn’t just see an individual, he sees nations and even generations. So it was a delightful match to find a man with proven competence and capability to scale an ideology because the greatness or otherwise of nations starts and ends with the family unit. If you deep the word “father”, it means stuff like progenitor, leader, mentor and provider. So Abraham being called “father of faith” wasn’t just a fancy title but a representation of his responsibilities, one that could model desirable behaviour for large swaths of people. God wants you to be more than a man, he wants you to be a mentor. What idea do you have the ability to scale? Fatherhood is more than being a sperm donor, any virile male can do that – fatherhood is leadership.
Like Father, Like Son – Generational Talent?
It can be difficult for men to accept that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Respectfully, could it be that when we say, “silly child”, we’re saying “silly father”? Something is intriguing that Abraham does that finds expression in his son. In Egypt, Abraham was afraid that he could get killed over his beautiful wife, Sarah. So he asked her to identify as his sister. A similar situation played out when Abraham’s son, Isaac, stayed at Gerar with his equally ravishing wife, Rebekah. He also asked her to identify as his sister. There are cogent arguments from every POV on whether these were acts of duplicity, cowardice or valid submissions because, for example, Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. I won’t split hairs over that, what is worthy to note here is how Isaac, who wasn’t physically present when his father introduced his mother as sister did the same thing when e reach him turn.
DNA na your mate? Dey play! Learnt behaviour is a result of mutated genes, perhaps Isaac was taking notes in his father’s loins. Many men get mentoring all wrong; we often try to shout it into our sons instead of showing it to them. Children learn more with their eyes than they do with their ears, our actions are so loud that they cannot hear what we are saying. If you cannot support criminality then turn around and rebuke your children for not being on the straight and narrow. No, it’s not just “politics” – it’s principles. You cannot compartmentalise your values – co-signing brigands on the one hand and then pontificating about ethics on the other hand – that’s textbook schizo behaviour. One of the reasons why many men cannot effectively mentor young people in my generation is that we’re more sophisticated than our parents, we see through the smoke and mirrors, thus making it hard to rate people who constantly gaslight and insult our collective intelligence.
The Abraham Accords
In those days and even now, having children, especially sons, was seen as validation for marriages. For reasons beyond their biology, Abraham and his wife were unable to conceive a child. Here comes God telling Abraham that he and his wife will carry a promised son. After a while, there was no child and the pressure was getting wesser. So Sarah hatched a plan to help God manifest the promise one way or the other. Abraham ends up fathering Ishmael with his wife’s maid, way before the actual child of promise, Isaac, shows up.
Notice that Hagar is impregnated by Abraham via the concession of Sarah but from the moment Hagar is fully integrated into the family, she and her son begin mocking and despising their benefactor. Looks familiar? Paul of Tarsus, one the most influential cultural connoisseurs of his time doesn’t mince words about this scenario in his letter to the Galatians: “At that time, however, the son born by the flesh persecuted the son born by the spirit. It is the same now.” Paul points us to the origin of the biggest immigration politics, land wars and religious contention that rages even till this day by two of these ‘sons’ of Abraham. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice the son he loved, who was promised – God had to specifically request Isaac.
Abraham means ‘Father of many nations’ – when you’re big, anything that comes from you whether wrong or right becomes big too. This leaves me wondering how different the world could have been if Abraham had just pumped his brake.
There are many insights to extrapolate from Abraham taking Isaac up to sacrifice as an act of worship. but I’ll pick out a few. The first is obedience, you cannot effectively lead or mentor others if you’re not first submitted yourself. Two, religion is simply what God said, revelation is what God is saying. Three, a generation of fathers is killing their sons’ generation simply because they aren’t flexible in their thinking. Some leaders are killing the youth demography of their countries by insisting on stifling young voices rather than reasoning with them. Some parents are killing the future of their children by insisting they study prestigious courses over following their unconventional dreams. Some CEOs are killing their businesses by not listening to the market and pivoting their original ideas. Abraham learned how to switch! Finally, that scene ultimately typifies Abba (God, the father), sending his son, Jesus, (the ram caught in the thicket) to die in place of another. Abraham precursors the messiah story in more ways than one. Abraham was by no means a perfect man but his life’s story is something to chew on.